Industry rallies around legendary horseman
THE North Burnett's campdrafting community has rallied in support of legendary Monto-born horseman and trainer Ken May.
May was hospitalised after suffering a stroke while on his way home from the Grass Hut Campdraft and Challenge on August 21.
He underwent a craniotomy to relieve pressure on his brain, but due to the severe trauma has been unable to regain movement or sensation in his left side.
The Monto Silver Buckle's organising committee threw their support behind the local icon's recovery by hosting a fundraiser at the town's showgrounds this weekend.
A lifelong horsemen and one of the pioneers of the Australian Stockman's Challenge movement, May rose to prominence as a jockey, trainer and instructor at Longreach Pastoral College, before travelling the world teaching young riders the ropes.
In 1984, May was at the forefront of a group who brought Queensland's best campdrafters, reiners and cutters together at the Cloncurry Show.
It was the birth of the Stockman's Challenge, a tribute to the quintessential outback horseman and the bench mark for young performance horses.
The sport has evolved but Cloncurry remains the oldest and most prestigious event of its kind and is widely-regarded as one of the greatest horse events in Australia.
Its solid silver trophy, the Reg Brown Memorial Cup, is today valued at around $20,000 and has become somewhat of a bush icon.
May etched his name into the history books when he took out the elite competition on Doc's Winfield in its seventh year, in 1990.
In a heartfelt Facebook post that has attracted 646 shares and comments, the Cloncurry Stockman's Challenge & Campdraft called Ken a "role model, competitor, horseman, sportsman and friend to all."
"He would have competed alongside of us or helped most of us at some point in his career," it read.
"We wish him all the very best, and have no doubt that his fit and fighting humour, along with the support of his family, friends and the wider horse community will now help him through this difficult stage."
Four expert instructors - Tony Mortimer, Nathan Wilson, Leah Read and Andrew Currie - donated their time in Monto to conduct a two-day Stockman's Challenge and Campdraft clinic, with all proceeds donated to assist with Ken's recovery and rehabilitation.
The $400 clinic attracted nominees of all ages and experience levels, some travelling from as far a Brisbane, Wandoan and Kingaroy to learn from the best in the business.
The weekend-long workshop covered all aspects of cattle work and horsemanship and the 40 available spots were snapped up in a flash.
Organiser and operator of Ponderosa quater horse stud, Mick Southern, said it was the least the industry could do.
"Ken has been a mentor for a lot of people over the years. He was involved in the sport from its very beginning," Mr Southern said.
"He was a very good competitor but gave back so much as well. He was a committee member here for years and always sponsored events and judged junior competitions.
"Everyone here knew him. He would have played some part in their training or education."
Speaking from his bed side at Sunshine Coast University Hospital on Saturday, Ken's longtime partner Anita Martin provided a promising update on his condition.
"He's recovering really well," she said.
"He can stand with assistance and can transfer from his wheelchair to the bed.
"He's now able to talk and his memory is good. We're hopeful he'll be able to walk again - that's what we're aiming for."
Ms Martin was well aware that Ken had touched the lives of many throughout rural Queensland.
Still, she said the couple had been blown away by the outpouring of support and well-wishes from the horse-riding community.
"Surprised isn't the right word, but we're humbled by it - it has been overwhelming," Ms Martin said.
"We certainly didn't plan to be in this position but the support and messages have been very nice.
"We've had a lot of support from a lot of people."
His family have their fingers crossed that Ken will be able to return home to Longmire, his 1000-acre property near Wondai, in time for Christmas.
Doctors have been impressed with the progress of his rehabilitation and have set a tentative release date for December 22.